Published On: August 18, 2021

Designing Audio Cables To Preserve Music’s Finest Details

Published On: August 18, 2021

Designing Audio Cables To Preserve Music’s Finest Details

"Great cable comes from so much more than just a heavier gauge and good intentions." - David Salz, President Wireworld Cable Technology

It all started with a love for music and a desire for innovation. Over 40 years on, Wireworld has refined the design of audio cables to an exact science with patented technology and award-winning design.

Using objective listening technology - the Cable Comparator™ - Wireworld discovered a more accurate way to test musical preservation in audio cables. Resulting in the design and development of patented cable tech for a listening experience free of the colorations caused by cables.

"Great cable comes from so much more than just a heavier gauge and good intentions." - David Salz, President Wireworld Cable Technology
David Salz - Wireworld President

Wireworld recently invited Home Theater Review to do an exclusive interview with David Salz - Wireworld’s President - which you can read below. David is an industrial designer who has earned numerous engineering honors and holds seven technology patents, including one in audio cable testing systems. He believes that the surest way to advance any design discipline is first to become fluent in that field's history, science, and art.

HTR: How did you get into the audio cable business?

My career in cable design began with an experiment. As an avid audiophile, I wanted to find the best interconnects for my system. I became frustrated as I compared various high-end interconnects between my amp and preamp. The problem was that each cable changed the sound in different ways, but none really stood out as sounding more lifelike than the others. My disappointment in those cables led me to try a new approach. I moved my preamp and amp back-to-back and connected them with short jumpers. The sonic result of that change was a revelation; I heard much more musical detail and dynamic energy through that ‘cable bypass’ than I had ever heard through the cables. When I compared the cables to the bypass, their losses and colorations stood out more clearly than ever before. 

That test result convinced me that none of the cables I had tried were thoroughly engineered. I also realized that I’d discovered a tool that would help me learn how to create cables that preserve more of the natural acoustic qualities of live music. That singular discovery led me to decide that designing cables would be my career. My mission would be to produce cables that approach the sonic purity of a direct connection. 

Nearly all audio cable manufacturers agree that neutrality is their goal. However, I believe that Wireworld is the only company that actively tests cables for audible neutrality. The standard method of evaluating cables by simply swapping them is inadequate as a development tool. It can only reveal the sonic differences between cables, not the full sonic effect of a cable. Scientific testing requires a test control/reference and the only true reference standard for cable performance is a direct connection between components. 

Consequently, our reference systems are custom designed to function with direct connections between components. We can insert cables individually so that they can be analyzed and minimize losses effectively. Comparing cables to direct connections, with or without a switching device, is the only way to hear precisely what effect cables have on the sound. Since my goal is to create cables that let you hear all the music, I have always relied on these objective tests to discover what’s being lost and changed by cables. 

HTR: What design factors do you think are most important in an audio cable?

From my objective listening tests, I learned that the cable's electromagnetic (EM) field controls tonal coloration and dynamics. This discovery was not surprising because the EM field moves the signal through the cable. As with magnets, this field gets stronger as the two polarities move closer and weaker as they move apart. To maximize music preservation, a cable’s positive and negative conductors must be parallel and very close together to efficiently channel the field energy. You should also tune the width of the gap between the polarities for sonic neutrality in analog cables.  

Technically minded readers will be pleased to learn that this tuning also optimizes waveform fidelity, which is especially helpful in preserving detail at the quiet end of the dynamic scale. Wireworld's patented DNA Helix (Delineated Neutralizing Array) conductor geometry utilizes stacked layers of flat conductors twisted and compressed together within the cable to provide these benefits. In addition to channeling electromagnetic field energy more efficiently than other designs, this configuration provides superior immunity to EMI/RFI interference. 

Insulation materials are extremely important in cable design, and designers usually select whatever standard materials they find to work the best. The problem with that approach is that none of the standard materials provide both low loss and low triboelectric noise. Sonic differences in insulation materials are usually attributed to variations in their dielectric absorption (loss), but our objective listening tests have shown that noise plays a far greater role. We learned that the sonic differences in insulation materials are caused mainly by the different spectra of triboelectric noise added to the music. 

Static charge/discharge effects generated where conductors touch the insulation is what causes triboelectric noise.  While movement and vibration typically induce this noise, it is also generated by the energy of the music signal itself. Since the noise mixes with the music, we hear it as unnatural tone, glare, and congestion that masks quieter sounds. To overcome those issues, we developed composite insulation materials. Now in their third generation, Composilex 3 insulation materials are uniquely blended to minimize both noise and loss, enabling us to hear more musical detail and three-dimensionality than ever before.

HTR: Why are silver conductors controversial as an upgrade material in audio cables?

Upgrading a cable from copper to silver will improve resolution. However, the upgrade is not always helpful because it makes the colorations caused by insulation materials and electromagnetic effects much easier to hear. I believe the higher cost of purer and more conductive metals in cables is only justified when they are designed holistically for neutrality.

HTR: What is the biggest misconception about audio cables?

Many people say that cables sound different in different systems. I disagree. I’ve found that cables always affect sound the same way, but we hear the impacts depending on the sound of everything else in the system. 

While it may be impossible to predict how a cable will sound to an individual with a particular system, we cannot understate the value of truly neutral cables. The cable effects that color the sound also remove essential details and expression from the music. Identifying the colorations of other system components is difficult because you can’t compare them to a perfect component. Cable colorations are much easier to identify, since you can compare them to a virtually perfect cable, a direct connection between components.

HTR: Are more advancements possible, or have we reached the limits of technology?

Audio cable advancements will continue because design refinements and material upgrades are always possible. I am constantly following developments in material science and testing new options as they appear.   

Additional Resources

Wireworld Cable Technology Releases HDMI 2.1 Cable

The Wild World Of Audiophile Cables

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